FROM CORVALLIS — We’ve arrived at chilly Reser Stadium, site of tonight’s game between Washington and Oregon State, two teams desperate for a quality victory as the Pac-12 bowl race becomes more and more crowded. Washington State is now bowl eligible at 6-5 after beating Utah earlier today, giving the conference nine bowl-eligible teams. And after tonight, seven of those teams will have seven or more wins — Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Arizona and whoever wins tonight’s game. Which makes it all the more important for UW to reach seven or eight wins and establish itself as a team deserving of one of the Pac-12’s seven guaranteed bowl spots.
With that, we have our usual three keys to a possible UW victory …
1. No patty-cake for Mannion — This should be an interesting matchup between the Pac-12’s best passing offense (OSU) and its best passing defense (Washington). But the Huskies aren’t going to have much success defending all those passes if OSU quarterback Sean Mannion is given time to stand in the pocket and survey the field. If this game ends and the Huskies have fewer than three sacks, that’s probably a bad sign for UW.
2. Protect (Price or Miles) — Keith Price is out on the field as we type, throwing passes and trying to get his shoulder loose. He seems to be in relatively good spirits. But it’s still not known whether Price or backup Cyler Miles will start at quarterback. Regardless, pass protection will be key — to protect Price’s shoulder, or to give Miles enough time to go through his progressions and make good decisions.
3. Give it to Sankey — No-brainer, as it is every week. But with a banged-up Price, or a green Miles, there’s no better way for the Huskies to get their offense going than to turn and hand the ball to the All-American candidate in the backfield. Written that before, sure. But it’s still true, and a steady running game might be the Huskies’ best weapon tonight.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple